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Abu Marwan Abd al-Malik b. Abil-ala Zuhr b. Abi Marwan Abd. al-Malik b. Muhammad b. Marwan ibn Zuhr was born in Seville in 484 A.H. /1091 A.D. or 487 A.H. /1094 according to Ibn al-Abbar', in a family of physicians originating from Arabia as was a member of the family of Banu Zhur, that arrived to al-Andalus, and set up their residence firstly in Jativa, then in Denia, under the protection of their kings, from Mujahid, King of Denia, till the al-Mohad Emirs, to whom they served as physicians. Banu Zhur travelled all over North Africa, and occupied there prominent posts. Ibn Khallikan mentions several members of this family as ulama, (Scholars); ru'asa (Chiefs) and hukama' (wise men) 2.


The most famous of this generation of physicians, both in the skill of Medicine and in writing medical works, were abul-ala, Zuhr b.Abi Marwan Abd al-Malik b.Muhammad b.Marwan b.Zuhr, Known by his kunya Abul-Ala, and especially his son Abd al-Malik b.Zuhr the author of the kitab al-Taysir.


Abul-Ala studied medicine and stood out in its practice. Ibn Abi Usaybia 3, says that he was renowned by his dexterity and knowledge and his excellent cures which indicated his efficacy in the skill of medicine and its secrets, and he made prodigies in the treatment of patients.


Afterwards he went to Cordova where he studied literature and Hadith (Prophetic tradition), and studied also the works of Avicenna, inasmuch as wrote for his son Abd al-Malik ibn Zuhr a book entitled "Maqala fi1-radd ala Abi Ali ibn Sina fi mawadic min kitabi-hi fi1-adwiya al-mufrada ".


Abul-Ala' worked firstly as a royal physician for king al-Muctamid b.Abbad in Seville, and afterwards in Agmat, the place of exile of al-Muctamid, in order to treat his wife al-Rumaykiyya. Later he went back to al-Andalus, and worked at the service of Yusuf ibn Tashufin, who gave him the title of wazir (vizier, minister) and so he is known in the West under the name of al-Guazir Abulelizor, which is the phonetic corruption of al-wazir Abul-Ala, ibn Zuhr. He died in Cordova in 1131 A.D. and was buried in the Victory Gate (Bab al-Fath) in Seville.


His son Abd al-Malik ibn Zuhr, became the most important physician of his family and is considered as one of the best Andalusian physicians.


Averroes, in the fifth book, chapter thirty-one, of his Kitab al-Kulliyyat, described him as the greatest physician after Galen.


Abd al-Malik learned the skill of Medicine from his father, and studied in the best schools of literature, fiqh Jurisprudence) and religion of his time. He worked as a physician at the service of the al-Moravidthen the al-Mohad Emirs.


During his life, he was exposed to the political changes, and he was in prison under the government of the al-Moravides. Afterwards, with the victory of the almohads, he served them as physician in their court, and wrote for Abu Muhammad Abd al-Mumin ibn Ali a "Kitab al-Agdhiya wal-adwiya." 5


Abou Marwan Abd al-Malik ibn Abil-Ala ibn Zuhr died in 557 A.H. /1131 A.D. and was buried outside of the Victory Gate, next to his father's grave.




The medical and philosophical concept of Avenzoar, as it happens with other Arab physicians, comes from the Galen's theories, based on the theory of the four elements: fire, earth, air and water and their proper characteristics, i.e. heat, coldness, dryness and humidity. And according to this quaternary system, the human body is composed from four humors: Black bile, yellow bile, phlegm and blood and the state of health and the different diseases depend on the proportionality of these four humors.




Ibn Abi Usaybia mentions several stories that reveal the spirit of observation and examination at Avenzoar:


"The Caliph Abd al-Mumin needed to have a laxative drug, and he detested to drink the purgative drugs. Avenzoar acted by subtle means, he went to a grapevine of his garden, and irrigated it with water containing the purgative drugs, macerated or boiled. When the grapevine took the strength of the laxative drugs, and the grapes appear with these strengths, he ordered the Caliph to be on diet, and then brought him a grape and indicated him of eating it. The Caliph had a good opinion of Avenzoar. When he ate it, in his presence, he said to him: "Oh, Commander of the faithful, it is sufficient for you to have eaten ten grapes and you will go ten times to evacuate the bowels". The Caliph asked him the reason of this; he informed him of it. Then it happened as he said. Abd al-Mumin became calm and was healed, and so Avenzoar's reputation and rank increased". 6


There is another episode that indicates the spirit of observation of Avenzoar:


Abd al-Malik ibn Zuhr was going to the palace of prince of Faithful in Seville, and on his way, at Abul-Khayr bath, near Ibn Mu'amil's house, found an ill man who had a great tumor, his belly was swollen and his complexion became pale. This patient was always complaining of his state to the physician, and asking him to take care of his case. A day, when he asked him the same thing, Abu Marwan ibn Zuhr stopped, looked at him and found near his head an old jug from which he has been drinking water. Avenzoar told him: 'Break this jug, because it is the cause of your disease'. The man replied to him: 'No, by God, Sir, because I have not another jug save this one'. The physician ordered one of his servants to break the jug. He broke it, and a big frog appeared from it. Avenzoar said: 'You are saved from your disease. Look at what you have been drinking'. The man recovered his health".




Abu Marwan ibn Abi al-Ala ibn Zuhr wrote the following books:


-Kitab al-Taysir fil-mudawa wal-tadbir.


-Kitab al-Iqtisad fi islah al-anfus wal-ajsad.


-Kitab al-Aghdiya wal-adwiya, that he wrote for Abu Muhammad Abd al-Mur'nin ibn Ali.


-Kitab al-Sina


-Kitab al-Jamic fil-Ashriba wal-Maajin.


-Kitab Mukhtasar hilat al-bur' li-Jalinus.


-Risala fi tafdil al-asal alal-sukkar.


-Kitab al-Tadhkira fil-dawa' al-mushil


And two books: Maqala fi ilal al-kula and Risala fil-baras.




Its complete title is Kitab al-Taysir fil-mudawa wal-tadbir, and it is organized in the traditional order, i.e. mentioning the diseases of the organs from head to feet.


We do not know exactly the date of its composition. Ibn al-Abbar says that he wrote it after he composed the Kitab al-Iqtisad and Colin says that it was, then, written between 1121 and 1162 A.D.


We know that this book was written at the request of the cadi Abul-Walid ibn Rushd (Averroes), since this one says at the end of his Kitab al-Kulliyat:


"Who thinks that this part of this book is incomplete, and wanted to examine after that the Kananish (notebooks), the best of these is the book entitled al-Taysir which has been written in our time by Abu Marwan Ibn Zuhr. I asked it from him and I have copied it (...)". 8


The Kitab al-Taysir is one of the most important Arabic works on medicine, and it has had a great influence in Medicine of the following ages, and it was found always in the libraries of the Christian physicians.


There are several manuscript copies of this book: one in the Bibliotheque Nationale de Paris, MS or N° 2960, ff. 50r-189r. This copy was finished in Barcelona in 651 A.H./1165 A.D. There is another copy of the Bodleian Library of Oxford, MS Huntington N° 355, ff. 1-180v, but we do not know the place and date of the copy.


The third manuscript copy is in the Biblioteca Medicea-Laurenziana of Florence (Italy), n° 215, ff. 1 r-11 Ov. And, finally there was another manuscript copy, lost at present, in al-Maktabe al-Abdaliya in Tunis, n° 2867/7. There are also many ancient translations into Hebrew and Latin.




Liver is one of the main organs, and Aristotle sees in it the origin of natural heat, the heat of heart. Physicians think that the heart in itself is a principal organ, which has great influence and effects. For that reason Hippocrates says: "If we live a good life it is because of the health of our liver. The liver is a source of the natural force with which digestion, maturation, attraction and repulsion are accomplished. Liver spread these forces and especially the transmissive force to all body, and with these forces the organs digest the food and transform it, after its attraction and retention. All these forces are in liver and come from it. When its mutative force is weakened, diseases occur in the body, according to this weakness, like dropsy. Its cure consists of returning the state of liver to its normal proportion or equilibrium. The weakness of liver, which occurs because it is an instrumental organ, origins obstruction and tumor, since tumor is a disease of the instrumental organs, and it is also a disease of the organs of similar parts. The cure of this consists of opening obstruction, if it is caused for it, and making to disappear the tumor, if it is the cause. If another sickness occurs in liver, like induration because of drinking cold water, against what is convenient or debilitation of strength because of an excess in eating food with vinegar, what is caused by drinking very cold water is not only cured with something which can warm the liver but adding altogether a strengthening force and a moderate astringency and flavour. Camomile and rose are drugs useful for this.


Know that the kinds of dropsy are composed like fevers. If the physician makes a good inspection and proceeds with care in the treatment of each kind of them, it will not be difficult for him, the treatment of which is composed of them always with the help of God.




One ounce each of lac deprived of wood, flowers of camomile and rose, Chinese cinnamon, mastic clove, and lavender; half an ounce of toasted linseed, agrimony, and scaly spleenwort. The drugs are separately pounded and sieved with a veil. Then, all of them are pounded, sieved and kneaded with a well-made syrup of common eryngo. About five dirhams of all this are taken every morning. Then the liver is annointed with fever-few chrysanthemum oil and lentisk grain oil, in similar parts. Food must be fermented bread with pigeons, small birds or young partridges in white or green tafaya, God willing.


And if the weakness is caused by an excess in eating sour food or vinegar, you must treat it with the following prescription: half a pound of dry raisins deprived of their seeds, licorice wood; a quarter of a pound of common eryngo, and agrimony; one ounce of mastic; what is necessary of these drugs is separately crushed and it is macerated for one night in a quarter of boiled water; then, in the morning, it is put on a low fire until a half of the water is consumed; then, it is sieved, and about ten pounds of sugar and five pounds of honey are added to it; and it is cooked until becomes a thick syrup. The dose of it, every morning, is two ounces, with six ounces of lukewarm drinking water, and five dirhams of electuary of cushari roses. The liver is anointed externally with lentisk grains oil, and camomile oil, in equal parts.


Tumor occurs in the liver substance, and what suppurates from it, I do not hope absolutely could be recovery, because it is a source of strengths, and because of its disease the strengths are disturbed and death overtakes him.

Obstruction occurs in it, and the treatment for liver obstruction consists of opening it with water in which agrimony, Venus' hair, scaly spleen wort or similar drugs are cooked. The juice of fennel has a good effect for this.


It happens in the cover of the liver that it is swollen as it occurs in the other organs. The patient feels an insufferable pain which he fancies to be located in his liver. The sensibility of this cover is great because all the nerves coming to it are subdivided into many branches, and its sensiblity is very great. The wicked Ali ibn Yusuf 9 often suffered of this pain. I treated him with oil extracted from egg yolk and duck fat, and he was cured in that same day. After this pain he suffered from jaundice.




The spleen is an organ that attracts the melancholic residues, nourishing itself with those of them that are thinnest. Several diseases affect it, as it happens in other organs. It is not one of the main organs, and no strength comes from it to the body, but it received the thick residues of the body, as kidneys receive the thin ones, and then it becomes very much swollen and hard.


Its treatment consists of the same drugs that I have mentioned for liver. Know that spleen can tolerate stronger drugs than the ones tolerated by the liver, and remember always that when you give any drug to drink which is useful for spleen, you must mix something sour with it, because this organ is only nourished with drugs containing some acidity, and it attracts them to it, by taking them, and accelerating the arrival of the useful sour drugs.


We know that when spleen hardens itself, and cannot receive the sediments of blood, these ones remain spread within the body, and the state of the liver becomes worse and after this induration it fol- lows weakness of liver, and also dropsy of one or more than one of its kinds.




One ounce each of camomile, bast of tamarisk's root, agrimony, lavender, mountain germander, Venus' hair, common ceterach, and wild ginger; half an ounce of dyer's madder, five dirhams each of common larch root, bast of fennel's root, six dirhams of mastic, one dirham of saffron, half the amount of licorice of all the before mentioned drugs. All that is necessary to crush is separately crushed, and mac- erated for one night in twenty-four pounds of very hot water. In the morning, it is macerated with the fingers, its broth is sieved, and put on a low fire, together with eight pounds of honey bereft of froth and two pounds of sugar. When it is about to grow thicker, two pounds of very sour grape vinegar are added to all the other drugs. When a thick syrup is formed, it is kept into a glass or glazed earthenware vessel.


Every morning, are taken from one ounce and half an ounce to two ounces, with three equal parts of drinking water and two dirhams of honey-suckle electuary. If weakness appears in liver, the honey- -suckle electuary is substituted for three dirhams of electuary of cushari rose. Food must be the lightest possible meat. Chicks and young turtle-dove meat is enough. Occasionally, hen meat is not bad, until total cure occurs. Put also the following plaster over the spleen.




One part each of tamarisk root, camomile, narcissus and jasmine flowers. Add to this half the amount of all rest of barley flour and darnel flour. It is kneaded with water and vinegar in equal amounts. Apply this plaster over the spleen, and bind it with fresh vineleaves. It is convenient for the patient to have, before his meal, caper in vinegar with some salt, as caper so prepared is one of the useful drugs for spleen, especially if they are eaten on an empty stomach. Apply the plaster to him in this way, at night, and order him to annoint himself, by day, with lily oil, and rose oil, in equal amounts, and apply them together twice every day, and the plaster at night. Often it happens that the strength of the body repels it, because the spleen does not accept this sediment, and it remains spread within the body. Physicians say that sometimes it is repelled, and very black blood goes out along the anus, and consequently the hypertrophy decreases. I saw this with my own eyes. Dr, sometimes, this sediment is pushed to the skin, which becomes black and blue; then the swelling of the spleen decreases. I saw this with my own eyes. I also saw many times jaundice that occurs when the bilious sediment is repelled, without feeling its issue along the anus, because of its thinness and its is carried by the laxity of belly or diarrhoea. And if it is pushed towards the skin, this is generally a dangerous thing; so hurry to the physician.


JAUNDICE is originated by a bilious humor which is suddenly impelled towards the skin and this one takes the colour of the peel of the cedrat, and likewise the white of the eyes becomes yellow. When you see this, observe if acute fever has occured before the ejection of this humor, or if fever has decrased, or if it continues, or if he ejected it without fever, or if there was fever after its ejection. If fever continues, and the ejection was after the apparition of fever, observe if this happens after the seventh day, or in the seventh day. If it is in the seventh day, approximately, hope for a good end, because it has been ejected after its maturity. If it is ejected immediately after the beginning of the fever , suspect that a hot tumor is in the liver or in its cover. In fact, when this happens in the liver, everything coming into it is transformed into this humor, and it does not go out onto the skin by means of crisis, but, spreading itself through the whole body. If you know that the liver or its cover have a tumor and are swollen, do not give the patient anything hot to eat, not sweet, or containing oil or fat, because if you do it, you will kill the patient. Give him immediately juice of watermelon, or crumbled bread in juice of watermelon without containing oil or spices, except dry coriander, and give him pulp. of watermelon or crumbled bread soup to eat, and the pulp is not bad, if it is cooked in water with a bit of salt. Then it is cooled in snow or in a well as it is useful for this.




Hernia occurs in hyponchondrium either because of a contusion with a stick or a stone, on a full belly, or because of a great jump, especially when the belly is full. At times, it occurs because of an excess of violent cough, or because of raising a heavy load, or the like.


When this happens in hypochondrium even if the man is young, it does not stop increasing until it becomes very big, and some bowels come out, remaining hidden only by the skin of the belly. Rumbling noises and pain occur in the belly and the state of health of the patient becomes worse, because of the hernia of hypocondrium, especially if the patient is fatigue or tired by walking or riding and galloping a horse, or by hard works. When the hernia happens, it increases continually, because the man must move with sudden movements. As for he who can be calm and quiet, when he reduced his movements, lies continually on his back, avoids crying, and tries not to cough or sneeze, then you must return the bowels to their place and bind his belly over an astringent and not too thick plaster, and if he remains so, it will be useful for him.


The substance of the hypochondrium is humid, and for that reason it cicatrization is difficult, because it moves a lot with the movements of the body.  I saw a  man, who was my friend, who suffered from herina, and for this reason remained disabled for some time.  I was then a young man.  The man suffered from intense pains, and no doubt this was caused by eating a lot  of apples or grapes.  Acute pains overtook him, and the spread all over the body, and he could not move but with great difficulty.  I was treating his pains, and denied him all food, except a little fermented bread and small birds in white tafaya, well-cooked until their meat was on the point of being overdone.  The man remained lying on his back for a long time, about two months, praying only by menas of gesticulations.  Afterwards, pains disappeared when their cause disappeared, and he recovered completely from the herina which he suffered and whose treatment was diffult forme, because of this behaviour during that time.  When he remained quiet and kept calm, he recovered, according to the symptoms. In fact, lying on his back, his bowels returned to their place, and the place remained calm.  His food was light, and his stomach was empty.  He healed due to all these things, not because any one tried to treat.




Wounds can occur in the belly because of a piece of iron, or a sharp stick, that pierce through both the skin of the belly and the hypochondrium, and the caul comes out. When this happens, someone dexterous enough must return it to its place. If it is affected by earth, dirt or sawdust, it is necessary to, wash it with tepid water and to return it to its place with care. If a part of it is rent and becomes black, the solution is to cutt off the part of it which is rent and corrupted and to return it to the belly and seam it with a silk thread. A skilful and responsible person must make it, as this is only learned by practice, not by science. Over the suture something is put that helps the cicaterization. At the same time, it is, necessary because of the wound, to moderate food, as much as possible, in order to reduce the flux of  humors. If the flux of blood is not excessive, a little blood-letting in the medial arm vein is not bad to ! him. This is a general means in all kind of wounds for reducing the flux of humors. It is possible that some portion of the bowels comes out. If bowels come out uninjured, without a great or a small injury, except their issue to the outside, you must hurry to return the bowels to their place with care in order to avoid inflammation. And if the bowels cannot be returned the same way they came out, because the bowels are swollen due to slowness of action, then you must pour tepid water in the surface of the fissure, so that it may be pleasant for the man, pouring it softly on the inflammated part until the swell disappears. After this has disappeared, you must reduce it softly. The rent of the skin and the peritoneum are seamed with a silk thread, with great care. Make the patient stay calm, not raise his voice, not move, and not stuff himself with food or drink. Nourish him with something in little quantity but very nutritive, like cock testicles in tafaya; two of them will be enough. Try the utmost to remove matter from the place of the wound. It is convenient to annoint around the wound with very flavoured rose oil, and the patient must have anything to eat until the rent cicatrizes, God willing. If bowels are affected by a wound with this piece of iron, and if it is in the small intestine, as it happens in most cases, I think that there is not any means to cure it. If rent occurs in the large intestine, the patient may live, because the rent is only in one of the tunics of the intestine, and the patient may be saved. If both tunics are rent, and especially if their rent is important, recovery is very difficult. However, at times, the patient can survive in this state. Physicians are of this opinion, having observed it in men and animals. I saw a man who evacuated the bowels through the wound he suffered, and he remained so for a long time, moving himself very much to get food. His life was long, but rather bad.


Here I finish with these organs, and I shall begin to treat on stomach, God willing.




Stomach is affected by consumption and weakness, so that its volume becomes thinner, like a rag, and it does not digest any food. I mentioned this disease, and presented it, because of people's neglect of it, and of what is against it. Beware of known drugs for strengthening the stomach which are astringent, dessicative and heating. The symptoms of this disease are that the patient cannot vomit what is in his stomach, the saliva does not flow from his mouth, his appetite is very weak and his digestion is far weaker, he evacuates dregs not digested or crushed, dregs are not very stinking, the colour of food is lost, the patient does not belch, and if he belches, does it scarcely, and he often hiccups. Dessicative food, cold or warm, damages him, his pulse is feeble, hard and invariable, with a tendency to become weaker. When you see these symptoms, you can be sure that this disease is certainly consumption and emaciation of the stomach substance. If you observe, in spite of all this, that the stomach looks, from outside, like a hollow when the patient is lying on his back, there is practically no doubt the patient suffers from this disease. However, if you have a sharp touch and you put your hand on the stomach, pressing it hard, with the patient not feeling any pain, and you percieve a pulsation under your hand, be sure that your caution is justified, and that the stomach suffers consumption, because this movement comes from the artery inside backbone. It is evident that you would not have perceived, were it not because of the stomach consumption. You must then annoint the stomach with sweet almond oil, together with some lentisk seed oil, and put two dirhams of lentisk seed oil for each ounce of sweet almond oil. Mix one tenth of tepid water with the whole of it. Shake it well, and annoint the stomach with it. Feed the patient with young hens in tafaya with almond oil and seasoned with a sarira of mastic. Put a rough rag anointed with pitch, previously softened with some almond oil, on the stomach. Put it on the stomach for a limited time, because if you leave it more than it is convenient, you will injure the patient. You must put the pitch on the stomach for half an hour, more or less. Then remove the rag together with its pitch from the stomach, and anoint it with almond oil in which you have put rose oil, mixing both of them well. See that the roses are recent, of that same year. Give him goat's milk to drink at the same time when it is milked, before it is affected by air, in a moderate quantity, from two to three ounces. Feed him with hen meat or cock testicles. Cock testicles are better than the meat. Feed him with this food several times on equal terms, and see that it is easily digestible. Keep him away from all dry foods either hot or cold. The hot ones are more strengthening because the heat, even when it is humid, dissolves a lot and accidentally dries. If it moistens by its proper nature, water evidently moistens by its natural humidity and also it dissolves a part of the organ substance because of the heat it has acquired. Things dissolving the substance of the organ are to be avoided in this disease. Endeavour, the, procure humidity and that the patient makes a good digestion, in as much as any food is assimilated, except after it has been digested. Remember also that the stomach is a main organ, due to the relation between its pit and the brain, because of the many nerves existing between both of them. Preserve, then, his strength, and there must be something softly astringent and flavoured in your drug. And if there is some bitterness in it, like bitterness of roses, that is one of the most useful thing. Chicken and hen meat and cock testicles ought to be very well-cooked. Bread ought to be fermented and proportionated, only with a bit of salt; and the flour it is made of ought to be from good wheat and to be grounded after having been moistened. Before kneading the dough it is put in a mortar and pounded for some time until it becomes like powder. It is kneaded as well as possible with tepid water. Oil used in his food ought to be sweet almond oil or sesame oil, and you must know that almond oil is preferable and that the oil of sesame in excess damages organs, because it is not astringent. If there is any bad property in it, halitosis results, but halitosis is only produced when diseases and bad symptoms are present. But, I do not see any objection to using this drug two or three times until halitosis disappears. Olive oil, if washed in water three times, is used in diseases like this one. Barley water well-made is also good, if it is had in a small quantity.


I think that anything remains to be mentioned on this disease, except one thing. The patient himself prefers astringent and bitter drugs or foods. Moderate astringency and bitterness are useful for this organ, because it is the stomach.


Keep in mind, then, all these aspects in your treatment. Also, this disease and this organ require to avoid sour drugs. However, for making medicinal powers arrive at the stomach layers, you must put, at times something a bit sour. Pears, if broiled, are good, because of its moisture, and have the property of making thirst disappear, and strengthening the stomach, due to its astringency and flavour, that make medicinal powers circulate and arrive at the organ with drugs containing some sourness.




1. CF. IBN AL-ABBAR, "Kitab al-takmila li-kitab al-sila". Ed. F. Codera, Complementum libri Assilah, 2 vols. (Mad- rid 1887- 1889) I,P.76

2. CF. IBN KHALLIKAN, "Wafayat al-acyan", ed. F. Wustendeld. (Gottingen, 1835- 1843).

3. CF. IBN ABI USAYBlA, "Uyun al-anba fi-tabaqat al-attibba". Sources d'informations sur les classes de medecine. Xllle Chapitre. Medecine de l'Occident Musulman. Publie, traduit et annote par Henri Jahier et Abdel- kader Noureddine. (Aiger, 1958) Vol.l, pp.88-89

4. CF. IBN AL-ABBAR, "Kitab al-Takmila li-kitab al-sila", l.pp.76-77

5. CF. IBN ABI USAYBlA, "Uyun al-anba", pp.96-97

6. CF. IBN ABI USAYBlA. "Uyun al-anba", pp.94-95

7. CF. IBN ABU USAYBlA. "Uyun al-Anba", pp.94-95

8. CF. IBN ABU RUSHD, "Kitab al-Kulliyat MS. OF Sacromonte (Granada)", f.230; Ibn Abi Usaybia, Uyun al-anba p.131.

9. ALl IBN YUSUF "was the son and successor of Yusuf Ibn Tashufin, who reigned from 500 A.H '11106 A.D. to 537 A.H.IA.D. CF. E -LEVI-PROVENCAL "in Encyclopedie de /'Islam", nouvelle edition, I. pp. 401-402 s.v.


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